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The following morning was the third after Margarita's murder and Nick knew that he wouldn't be able to avoid Maximino anymore. So, the first thing he did in the morning was to march to the man's office.

"Nick," his employer greeted him, cheerful despite the early hours. "I haven't seen you in a while."

"I have been busy," Nick admitted. "There has been slight trouble with the Martonza case."

Maximino looked at him in surprise, perhaps even worry. "Really? Wasn't everything supposed to be clear? What has gone wrong?" he wanted to know.

"Martonza has started to demand a better deal. He is no longer pleased with being allowed to use our docks but wants guards for his men as well," Nick said. He watched how an annoyed expression appeared on Maximino's face.

"And you didn't think to tell me sooner?" he asked.

"I thought I would get it taken care of myself. There is no need to worry; everything will soon be in order. I only came to announce that everything may take a while longer than was originally planned," the lawyer replied.

"Pity," Maximino sighed. "This is very important for us. Without this deal we will have a very bad year."

Nick couldn't help agreeing. Even though everyone was doing their best Maximino's business became smaller every month. And one didn't have to look for the reason too long. The reformed city of Nuevo Marrow stood only a day's trip west and sucked everything possible out of Rubacava.

"I will take care of this as soon as possible," he promised.

"Do that. I have other things in my mind," Maximino said. From the man's voice Nick knew that he still wanted to talk with him about something and so he waited. Maximino stood a while in silence looking thoughtful.

"Is there something you want me to do?" Nick asked and Maximino was startled.

"What? No, I don't think you can do anything. It's Olivia," the man said as if he had just been woken from a dream.

It won't take too long before those two are history, Nick thought dryly. Somehow he had imagined that Olivia would first break up with Maximino and then with him.

"Has something happened?" he asked, as if he was a truly caring friend.

"I don't know what is wrong with her. She has been avoiding me. Yesterday evening when she was here she was very quiet and rude and left early. It was the first time I had seen her this entire week. She is never feeling well anymore," Maximino said sounding a little sad.

"I wouldn't worry about it if I were you. She is a woman," Nick stated. In his mind he gave the couple a week or two. After that Olivia would do something radical and end the whole play. It would be interesting and perhaps even worrying to see how Maximino would react to it.

"Perhaps. I hope she isn't mad at me."

"If she is, she will snap out of it soon."

"Perhaps I should buy her something new?"

"That could work."

Nick exchanged a couple of more words with Maximino before leaving the man alone. The first thing he did after that was sending a telegram to Martonza, telling that there had turned out to be some problems with the contract and that the papers would arrive late. He only had five days left before everything should have been ready and he wouldn't have the time to send the papers, even if he found them. So the best thing to do was informing everyone that things were going to run late -- very late, in fact.

After taking care of that Nick returned to his own office. He thought about all that had happened the previous day and whether it would help him at all. Charlie's words of someone taking Margarita's key circled in his head and he couldn't decide if the murderer was someone outside the office or someone who wanted to trick them.


His thoughts were interruped when he suddenly collided with someone. That someone dropped his case and it opened with papers spreading everywhere.

"Watch where you are going!" Alberto's familiar voice snapped and Nick only growled at the man. He didn't bend down to help the other lawyer with collecting his papers but watched in half interest how he put everything back in his case and rushed away, muttering something to himself. It was obvious he was in a hurry.

Nick was about to go on as well, but then he noticed Alberto had forgotten something. A small piece of paper had flown farther away from the others and Alberto hadn't noticed it. Being somewhat curious, Nick picked it up.

"At pier 3 at midnight. --H," he read to himself. The text was written with curly handwriting that he had never seen before.

Nick slipped the paper in his pocket, curious about Alberto's doings for the first time during his afterlife. Who was the man supposed to meet? And why? He decided he would go there and see the meeting himself, but first he'd get some other things done.

He had thought of something that hadn't occurred to him before. There was one soul in Rubacava who probably hated him more than anyone else and it was possible that this particular person was behind everything.

Toto Santos.

The man had almost been a friend of Manny's and the ex-inhabitant of the city had known about Lola. Nick wouldn't have been surprised if Manny had told about the incident to Toto before leaving town. And since the shady artist happened to be of the scum of Rubacava -- who Nick despised more than anything -- it was unfortunately time to turn to Chowchilla Charlie again.


Charlie was sipping his coffee when Angel stumbled downstairs, looking tired. It was really an advantage that she had no hair because it would have looked awful in that state.

"Morning," she muttered as she fell on the chair opposite Charlie.

"Morning, dear," the con artist replied smoothly and returned to having turns between coffee and his cigarette. "Had a late night again, eh?"

Angel nodded with a yawn. "Did you hear us?" she asked. Charlie shook his head.

"Unfortunately not, the wall is too thick. However, I heard how he left doors banging a couple of hours ago," he said with a disappointed sigh.

"Don't worry, I will try to find someone louder next time."

It was rather late. Charlie didn't usually loiter around in the small lobby at that time, but he didn't really have anything better to do that morning. Despite that he had helped Nick a lot he had not yet received anything in return. It was starting to get on his nerves.

Knowing Nick, the man was only trying to use him but Charlie had no intention of being tricked. He would get something out of this.

"Any chance of getting a female next time?" he asked Angel who almost choked in her coffee and then stared at him in disgust.

"You make me sick!" she snapped and leaned back in her chair, lifting her left leg on the right.

Angel was quite a tall woman who always dressed in black and spent her time in Blue Casket. At times she almost reminded Charlie of Olivia Ofrenda, but Angel completely lacked the style, grace and intelligence of the other woman. She wasn't a fascinating seducer but an easy catch that anyone could get their hands on.

She couldn't even write poems, which Charlie had personally learned one morning when the woman had wanted to show her so called talent.

The con artist was just about to stand up and find something to do, but right then Nick came banging in, looking like he was in a very bad mood.

"Do you realise how much I wasted my time trying to find this shack?" the lawyer asked angrily and took the free chair next to Charlie.

"You could have asked me for the address if you wanted to meet me so hard," he stated, a little annoyed about that Nick had found the way to the only place he didn't like sharing with just anyone.

"Back then I didn't know I would have to sink this low," Nick said. "I need to talk with you."

"Hey, I know you! I have seen you many times in Blue Casket!" Angel exclaimed suddenly drawing Nick's attention to herself. The lawyer stared at her as if he had never seen her before. Charlie suspected the lawyer was so damn arrogant that didn't even see the beatniks as real people.

"Really?" Nick asked sounding like it didn't matter the least.

"Yes! You are Nick Virago, the guy who visits Olivia so often. I haven't seen you around lately, though. Not that she seems to miss you," Angel explained and took a sip of her coffee. "Just thought I'd tell."

Nick paid no attention to the comment, but Charlie could sense the man's mood getting darker. "What were you about to say?" he asked to change the subject.

"I thought about something that could make sense. You know that small crook at the docks? Toto Santos?" Nick asked. Charlie nodded and gestured the lawyer to go on. He glanced at Angel, clearly to tell that he wouldn't say another thing as long as the woman was around.

"We better go somewhere else to talk," the con artist suggested. They stood up and were about to leave, but Angel had something else to say to them.

"Hey, Virago!" she said. "You should come back to Blue Casket. Now that you don't visit her every night Olivia has more time for her club. I don't know why, but when she is around I have hard time finding a date. It would be great if something made Olivia disappear again every now and then."

"Really?" Nick asked dryly.

"Yes. Like a couple of nights ago, when that woman was murdered. Olivia spent almost the entire night with Maximino and I got really lucky!" Angel explained. She finished drinking her coffee and stood up to return to her room.

"I don't have time to listen to that," Nick muttered in annoyance when he led Charlie out.

"I actually like her. She is a much better neighbour than the man who lived next to me before her," the con artist stated.

"Whatever, I am not interested the least. Now tell me what you know about Santos," Nick said and Charlie sighed to himself.

"Have you already told Maximino that it would be the best for everyone if I was allowed back to the Cat Track?" he asked. Nick looked at him with an impatient expression on his face.

"Not yet, but I will. Once you have accomplished something useful," the lawyer stated.

"So what I have done so far has been worth nothing?" Charlie asked. Nick was a real bastard. If things got worse the man wouldn't do a thing for him but forget the entire deal.

In fact, he was quite sure that would happen.

"I don't like this Nick. I have done a lot for you -- I even talked to Bogan -- and I haven't got a thing from you. My patience doesn't last forever," he warned.

Nick stood his hands in his pockets and watched Charlie coldly. The man looked so negligent that Charlie felt rare rage inside him. Who did Nick think he was?

"Everything will be taken care of in time. Tell me what you know about Santos and his possible involvement in this," Nick demanded.

"If you want my opinion, I think Toto is innocent. He rages and curses at everyone but is the kind of man who never gets anything done. Why do you think he has lived in that garbage for years? No matter how much he hates you, he won't do a thing about you. Many think that's a pity, actually," Charlie snapped.

"I see."

"'I see'? Don't you have anything else to say?"

The lawyer took his hands from his pockets and shrugged. "Not really. I have a new lead that I will follow today. I doubt I need you," he stated, turned around and left the very irritated con artist behind.

"That's it," Charlie muttered to himself.


When he returned to his office, Nick couldn't help thinking that he had over-looked something.

To be continued...

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